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Yahoo pulls back its telecommuting employees

The media and blogosphere are raging.

Over the weekend, we got hit with the news that Yahoo is pulling all its telecommuting employees back into the office.

They’ve put the proverbial hammer down: no more remote work.

An internal memo got leaked to AllThingsD, and it commands all remote employees — not just full-time telecommuters but also the workers on a flex plan — back to cubicle hell.

And there’s no grey area.

laptops circled around a globe

Image courtesy of sheelamohan/

It’s either back to the office or you quit.

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side,” writes human resources executive Jackie Reses in a memo co-signed by company CEO Marissa Mayer.

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Horse pucky. Baloney and bull.

We’ve written so many times about the happiness of remote workers. They’re more productive. They’re more engaged. Without a commute, they have less impact on our ecological footprint. They’re just an all-around benefit to a company that wants to let up on office real estate and maybe even save some dollars in operating costs.

The technology, including our conference calling and web conferencing services, allow for quick “impromptu” meetings and provide the ability to meet face-to-face with new team members.

And we can’t believe that a technology company, one that should pride itself on innovation and moving the work force forward, would take such an awful step backwards.

Unless, of course, they were facing dismal levels of productivity and low returns on the investment.

That’s the only justification we can see, but Yahoo! Representatives choose to say they don’t comment on internal matters.

It’s OK. The sphere has a lot to say:

“Of late, as the conversation has shifted to one of workplace balance for all; as men have joined in, as high-profile workplaces like McKinsey have begun to recruit women who left to start families back to the fold, it has felt like things were beginning to change for working families. Yahoo’s tone-deaf memo isn’t just a blow to flextime and to working parents. It’s a move in the wrong direction by someone who might have led her company the other way, and while that move would have been just as wrongheaded coming from a male C.E.O., it would have felt more like business as usual and less like business going backward.” ~ KJ Dell’Antonia, New York Times parenting blogger

“Not only is there practically no survey evidence to suggests that telecommuting reduces productivity, but also it would help companies specifically like Yahoo: media and technology firms based in major cities. Writing can be accomplished anywhere. Coding marathons are often best done in intense solitary. What’s more, Yahoo has large offices in San Francisco and New York, which have two of the worst commute times in the United States. Working from homes adds hours to peoples’ days that would otherwise be spent in rather less productive grindlock.” ~ Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic

“Why oh why would the CEO of a large tech company want to limit her available talent pool to those who live within a short enough distance from the company’s offices to want to make the trip there and back 10 times a week? Why would she announce a blanket no-telecommuting policy and tie the company’s hands when trying to recruit sought-after tech talent? To remove the option of working at home as an enticement or a perk during hiring negotiations? To make Yahoo appear rigid and unreasonable to the entire tech world?” ~ Minda Zetlin,

“Technology makes company’s faster, more nimble and more connected. Beyond that, technology has provided the opportunity for companies to hire the best people no matter where they are in the world. This is because the technology available today allows us to see, hear and share our thoughts and ideas in real time. There is no need to commune around the water cooler and certainly no reason to make thousands more people sit in rush hour traffic to report to their cubicle. Being busy has no bearing on productivity.” ~ Daniel Newman, Millenial CEO

“Give people the freedom of where to work. This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.” ~ Richard Branson, Virgin founder and British billionaire

“This will be a huge blow to employee morale. Even if an employee wasn’t currently working from home, knowing that that is no longer an option will make them feel a little bit more disgruntled. A little less valued. And a whole heck of a lot less family friendly. Workers can spend an extraordinary amount of time commuting, especially in the California areas where Yahoo has offices. (I know nothing of Bangalore or Beijing, but I suspect commutes are no picnic there either.) Just allowing employees to skip the commute one or two days a week can be a tremendous boon.” ~ Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady,

What Yahoo has done flies in the face of all the good many companies around the world are trying to achieve.

We’ll have more next week since we’re sure this story will keep developing.

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